tv Public Affairs Programming CSPAN August 18, 2013 3:15pm-6:01pm EDT
seems to be such an aggravating factor? is there any consideration to banning alcohol in basis -- on bases? >> i can speak from my experience. you're right, there is a strong correlation between the use of alcohol and these crimes. we have taken steps to limit alcohol in the barracks, to have our noncommissioned officers and officers enforce those standards in terms of the sale of alcohol and post. in many posts, we would have our 24-hour shop that can sell alcohol. when places would close down off post, troops would come on post and purchase more alcohol. many posts of gone to a restricted time frame on alcohol sale after a certain time, some as early as 10:00 in the evening.
this is something we have looked at. commanders have often taken steps individually to curb this. >> my question is, are you thinking about unifying that? are you thinking of the best practices, guidelines for alcohol? >> what i just talked about has been discussed. in the meetings i have been in, we have not discussed it in the form of making it, across the services. we have left it to command at this point. >> thank you, everyone, for joining us today. we will see you in here soon. [indiscernible] >> we are all done. on the c-span networks, the air force association hosts a discussion
on military defense strategies and planning during a time of tightening budgets. on c-span two. the new america foundation examines electronic surveillance and human rights with access now. that is live at 6:00 p.m. here on c-span. next, a discussion about the role of public government affairs officers -- offices. posted by the national press tee, this is commit an hour and a half. >> welcome to the national press club, and this evening's discussion of whether or not federal public affairs offices have become a hindrance more than a help to press freedom and open government. or if you like, our shorter title.
my name is john donnelly. i'm a reporter with congressional quarterly and roll call. i'm chairman of the national press club's press freedom committee, sponsoring tonight's event along with the young members committee. you can find out more about the national press club and membership therein at press.org. is being event broadcast, webcast on that site. it will be archived there later. it is also being broadcast on c- span two right now. if you are following us on twitter, the handler is @pressclubtv and #opengovernment. note, theprogramming panelists' presentations will be available at a website called pao'sandreporters.blogspot.com.
i want to say that as a reporter, i should disclose that i am biased in favor of as much openness and disclosure as possible, and as few rules as possible about who can talk to reporters and how. recognize that public affairs has an indispensable job to do. i would like to make a few comments to set the stage for tonight's events. our discussion is about the growing and some say harmful role played by public affairs offices in the federal government. the complaints we hear from reporters are about widespread requirements that pao's must be present during interviews, questions be written in advance, and only certain people can be made available to say certain things.
what is most chilling our federal rules that require employees to only speak to reporters through official public affairs generals. the courts have sided with these rules. they have found that government employees don't have an unbridled first amendment right when they are talking about official, public information. that was a 2006 supreme court ruling. it was a narrow decision, 5-4. that was their ruling. to a non-eaking, lawyer, it doesn't appear these rules are going anywhere. in many agencies, the rules encourage but don't require. no matter which way it happens,
the message seems to be that it's not good for your career to talk to a reporter offline, even if the subject is not classified or proprietary. a couple weeks ago, we had a former nsa official turned whistleblower thomas drake here at a press club luncheon. he said that when federal employees are seeking to obtain or renew security clearances and are interviewed by investigators, one of the questions they are asked is whether the employee has ever had unauthorized contact with a reporter. not unauthorized contact involving classified or proprietary information, but any unauthorized contact. to a lot of us, that was disturbing. we thought i'm merely asking that question in that context -- i'm merely asking that question in that context, they are sending a message that speaking to the press offline is forbidden and could make you a security risk. the bradley manning and edward
snowden leaks have raised the temperature on this issue, particularly in the security agencies. the no leaks message was made in a hard-core way. in a june 2012 defense department document, about a so- called insider threat program, it was obtained recently by mcclatchy news. it said, quote, hammer this fact home. leaking is tantamount to aiding the enemies of the u.s. ". if that was equally applied, there were be a lot of senior administration officials in this administration and previous ones who would be in a lot of trouble. it's not equally applied. it net effect of all this, is a real deterrent to people speaking to the press outside of official channels. yet it often has to happen for the truth to come out.
let me be clear about a couple of things. we've reporters appreciate public affairs officers when they help. they very often do. i don't know anyone who wants to do away with these officers. and if they didn't want it, it's not going to happen. that is not on the table for discussion. most reporters understand that a job of public affairs is to make sure that their agency's point of view is expressed coherently, and rogue voices are not confused with official policy. i'm going to introduce our panel in one second. the pentagon has an interesting theirn what they call statement of principles about relations with the media. it says the public affairs officer should, quote, actively a zones, but not interfere with the reporting process. that sounds like a great summary
to me of where we should end up. everybody would probably agree with that. the rub comes in defining what peers to be interference. -- appears to be interference. going to introduce our panelists and get them a few minutes to weigh in with their take on the issue. timewe will have q&a appear, and then we will open it up to you all in the audience. let's meet our panel. carolyn colson, former associated press reporter and assistant professor of communication. the author of two surveys on the relationship between public affairs staff in the press. next is catherine fox all, freelance reporter a member of the press club press freedom committee.
then comes linda peterson, managing editor of the valley journals of salt lake, the freedom of information chair for the society of professional journalists, and the president of the utah foundation for open government. to my left and you're right, tony fratto, managing partner at hamilton place strategies, a strategic communications and crisis management consultancy. tony is an on-air contributor on the cnbc business news network. he was formerly deputy assistant to president george w. bush. john verga, president-elect of the national association of government communicators. starting with carolyn, let's see what you have to say about the subject. >> i want to tell you about a couple surveys i conducted this year and the previous year that are relevant to that topic.
reporters to cover all federal agencies in washington. respondents for margin of error of about 7%. i surveyed current and former members of the national association of government communicators. i bet 150 four responses with a margin of error of about 4.3%. 154 responses, with a margin of error about 4.3%. focused on the interview process. i want to talk about preapproval and routing. believe they have a better idea than reporters about who in their agency would be the best person to give an interview on a given topic. three quarters of journalists reported that they had to get approval before they could interview an agency employee.
out of 10 reporters say that their requests for interviews were forwarded to pao's. that is the interviewing process. half reporters said that they were prohibited from interviewing altogether. two thirds of the pao said they feel justified in refusing to grant interviews when agency's security is threatened, or when it might reveal damaging information. three fourths of pao's know the journalists try to go around them to contact staff members directly. nine out of 10 say their staff theers know and refer reporters to the pao when contracted directly. more than half of the reporters say they do try to go around and
circumvent the public affairs office at least some of the time. issue of trust, the majority of pao's say there are no reporters that they trust enough to contact staff directly without going to the public affairs office. only about a third said they had reporters they would give free rein to contact staff without going to the public affairs office. according to my open-ended comment, most of the time these were long-standing beat reporters. 39.6% of the pao's said there were specific reporters they prohibited the staff from talking to altogether due to problems with their stories in the past. 40% said there were specific reporters they banned. 14% said there were whole media outlets they would ban their
staff members from talking to because of problems with their stories in the past. on the issue of monitoring, two thirds of pao's feeling was necessary to supervise, monitor interviews. 85% of reporters said they get monitored at least some of the time. , some the breaks down time, 16% said all of the time they get monitored. three fourths of pao's agree that monitoring the interviews is a good way to make sure their agency staff is quoted correctly in the stories. pao's said they use their tapes and notes from the interviews that they monitor to dispute misquotes. 17% said they tried to require reporters to review their quotes with them before publication.
three fourths of pao's said they did not require republication reviews. i asked them attitude questions. the reporters' view of pao's control is pretty clear. seven out of 10 reporters agreed that the statement, i consider government agency controls over who i interviewed to be a form of censorship. 85 percent agreed that the government was not getting the information needed by agencies imposing and journalistic practices. pao attitudes were also unclear, controlling media coverage is an important part of protecting the reputation. making sure that accurate, positive information from the agency is conveyed to the public.
that is where the issue stands. as far as reporters in washington and public affairs officers. >> thank you. catherine? >> not so long ago, some reporters walked the halls of agencies in unique, critically needed graduate schools they talked to and got to know staff, stories, perspective, and education. just like this was the united states or something. over the last 20 years, leaders have created a surge of blocking reporters from communicating to staff unless they are tracked and or monitored by the public affairs officers, the public- relations controllers. it is massive, pernicious censorship that is now a cultural norm.
no matter what they know, employees are prohibited from ever communicating with us without guards working at the behest of the bosses and the political structure. it is people in power stopping the flow of information to the public according to their own ideas and desires. how can the united states prohibit people from speaking without reporting to the authorities? journalists, why are we so buffaloed? this is not some violent way of life, it is just a power grab that officials started pouring resources into relatively recently. the impact is drastic. i estimate that for many specialized reporters,
communication with staff is down 90%. never doubt the rotting, the debilitating effect of silencing people. the grave diggers at arlington cemetery knew about the jumbled graves for years. janitors at penn state knew about the child abuse for years. so, what do we not know now? for one thing, in public, fda says congress has not given the agency all that it requested for monitoring the skyrocketing pharmaceutical imports. 40% of drugs now come from overseas. we urgently need reporters
talking to fda people in policy jobs and in the front line inspecting jobs, away from the sensors. regularly. not just on big investigations. does the import situation keep fda staff people up at night? are we in pre-disaster mode, waiting for bodies to show up before we get serious? or not? what would staff say away from the guards? it is something because it always is. it is unethical and inhumane to kill or confine information gathering. with millions of people silenced in thousands of public and private workplaces of various moral persuasions, reporters cannot hope that our skill and hard work are making up for this. the ethical burden is now right on journalists. we can fight this, or we can be
the integral partner in ingraining it for the future. a warning about compromises. in our weakened state, some reporters say that they will go through the pio controls if they will just let me through without the delays, monitoring, blockages that have become so stunningly aggressive. that is a sellout of free speech. we will be passing on sterilized stories, modeling public understanding -- modeling public -- muddling public understanding understanding while lending power to an agency or political administration. and we ourselves, the reporters, will not see the difference. finally, question. why don't we, instead, have tracking and monitoring of all of the communications of all the agency leadership? thank you.
>> catherine and carolyn have both done a good job at portraying what it is like at the federal level, but i want to talk about more than that. many of you may, in the frustration of your job in washington, d.c., have thought that maybe you should give up here and go to some backwoods community where i will not have to go through all of this, where i can just sit down and chew the fat with the mayor. i am here to tell you that there is no such community anymore. these policies, the way of doing business of government have not just trickled down, but have poured down to the smallest communities in our country. my papers cover eight communities, suburbs of salt lake city, with populations of anywhere from 10,000 100,000-- people.o 100,000
and we deal with this on a regular basis. we can understand that the federal level there can be the reasoning of national security, there can be the reasoning of national policy. but in a small community of 10,000 people it can get ridiculous. this spring i called a small community park and wreck person to find out the time of the local easter egg hunt. he told me he could not tell me because he had been instructed not to speak to the press. fortunately i went around him and found out the time for those many hundreds of parents and kids who wanted to show up. we get to this point all the time in the smaller communities. most of the time the news that we cover is not earth shattering, it is of the day to day life that we live, the impact, the storm drain project you are so curious about because last year you sucked out 1 foot of water from your basement or the road repair you want to know
about because, heck, it seems like you have been driving on the right road with orange cones forever. -- that rotten road with the orange cones forever. these of the things that they are obstructing us to find out about. we are running into the same situations in our neck of the woods, where they wanted to sit in with the engineer as they talk about road base and death and things like that. truthfully i do not think that the pao would have the first clue of the engineer screwed up and set it backwards. often because we cover these day in and day out, we know more than pao. a while ago, closer than 9/11, we were doing a story on the water tank, a 500 million gallon water tank in this rural community. i asked for the address and he told me that he could not give me the address because of homeland security concerns.
well, i do not know about you but i really do not think that a suburb of salt lake city in utah is a primary target for al qaeda. but he would not give it to me. what we did was we got in the car and we drove out to approximately where we knew it was. it is hard to hide a 500 million gallon tank. we wrote down the address and we published it. nothing happened. al qaeda must have us way down on their to do list. in suburban salt lake city we are just fine. these of the kinds of things we're dealing with. we do have great pio's that we work with to understand they are truly there to facilitate the flow of information, not control
dam it, but to divert it and -- not to divert it, but to let it happen. we all understand that knowledge is power and anyone who has a teenager knows that information is power. that is what we are seeking. we are not generally seeking to expose great conspiracies, although we need to do that when that happens. there were no weapons of mass destruction ever found in iraq. i do not know if the government is still looking, but we are still waiting. on the local level there may be instances of nepotism but most of the time it is the day in and out things you want to know about. what is happening with the kids in the schools? the city council? are they going to raise your property taxes? pio's that get in the middle of that misunderstand what the processes about.
no pao has a formal vote on a city, state, or federal business. why does the government think that the public wants to hear everything that happened from them when it is an issue you are concerned about, you want to know from your councilman -- why did you vote that way? not from the second or third party. some reporters like to say -- well, that is just the way it is, or, i'm a good reporter, i just get around them. not the point. first of all, there are not that many good reporters left and the ones coming out of school are a fearful generation and are happy to do what they are told, happy to ask permission, which is a very scary prospect. i find that time and again i hire them and fire them because it is at my level they come to work and at my level they say -- but if i ask the mayor that, it
will make him mad. the pio said it was a good story. my response is, right? there is the door. we cannot just sit still and wait for someone else to stand up to this. as catherine pointed out, this is the united states of america and the mandate is to report the truth, not what they report is the truth or even what the pio thinks is the truth, the truth as we can find it. whether it is the time of an easter egg hunt or a national policy. this is america, the land of the free, the land of the free press. the public of the united states of america has the right to this information. thank you. >> thank you. >> [indiscernible] [laughter]
whenever we have these discussions, and it happens a lot, these public affairs officers are often portrayed as uninformed boobs and reporters are universally good. or it's the opposite. that reporters are evil scoundrels looking to embarrass public officials and make a mockery of the policy-making process and the only thing standing between these people and print are public affairs officers. my experience in 20 years of this is pretty much a normal bell curve distribution of talent, among both public affairs officers and reporters. meaning that among reporters and public affairs officers, some are really not very good, right?
some are excellent. the vast majority are average to above-average. the ones really below average tend to get out of the business on either side. that is what you're going to see and one reason why there are a lot of rules. undoubtedly there are a lot of obstacles to really good relationships, some of which you just heard. let me look at it from both sides on this. i will start with just a list of some of the obstacles on the official side, the press officers side, some of them on the media side, and then talk about the problems and i hope we can get into some of these, you know, this discussion a bit more when we get into questions. on the official side, we talked about trust and i hope we get to talk more about trust. one reason that trust has eroded, it is a simple thing,
-- use of the mail. e-mail. technology is great and efficient, but reporters and press officers do not actually talk much anymore. so much of it is done over e- mail, nuance goes away. when you talk to someone you can develop trust. forget about meeting in person. there was a time and you had to meet reporters in person and that is less prevalent today. some reporters only communicate through direct message on twitter. it is efficient but not quite the same. some people think that this is
good, if you can lay the wood to a reporter, it is an awful tradition and i can tell you that it exists. some press officers do not understand how difficult it is to master their issues, the policy-making issues, day-to-day news and what is going on. you have to work really hard at it and there is still fear about dealing with what may or may not be bad news. if you speak to anyone in my profession today where i advise people, every professional will tell you to put out the bad news on your own terms. push it out, explain it, tell your story, do not let it come out in disjointed way is, but the courage to do that is really lacking. on the media side, there is also ignorance, right? there are some terrific
reporters out there, more and more of them with knowledge and experience are exiting the business. it is really, really rare to find really good reporters with the length of time on a beach-- beat that it takes to master the beat. before i went to the white house i was in the treasury department for five and a half years dealing with complex economic issues and those reporters are were brilliant. the reporters today are so young and older reporters come from very expensive produced organizations, exiting the business and these young, inexperienced reporters have a steep hill to climb. the news is so fast, right? the speed of delivering the news today? it results in the bias is publishing first, you can publish, correct, upyo ihave thw
a news story to achieve some level balanced reporting. that is the world we live in. i do not complain about it, but it changes the nature of how we deal with reporters. what is news? there used to be a time when there was news and opinion. opinion was found on the editorial page or the op-ed page. now we have blogs, news analysis, and reporters to go to offer opinion commentary on television but write straight news for the news pages, reporters who treat their opinions but also right straight news stories. so, talk about reporters not being allowed to have opinions? everyone has opinions, but we see it more now. there is far more news analysis
from the reviews of reporters, that is on the reporters side also. bad traditions on the reporter'' side. too many times i have gotten that phone call at 4:30 in the afternoon or the story that has already been written looking for the administrative response. we need that line to put in the last draft of the story to publish. go back and look at how many times there is a " in the last wrap of the story. it is an awful way to develop trust between reporters, officials, and public affairs
officers. finally, conflict makes for a much better story. in the middle of the policy- making process, treasury has a view on the deal by the liberating housing policy with hud as a different view. what makes for a great story is reporting that difference and what happens is that it is not never reported as just the deliberation, it is reported as a dispute between treasury and hud. and the inevitable dispute, the must be -- is not healthy for the policy-making process. if you do not get them to be
label in the press as the loser it is not good for having internal policy debate. so, when there is trust, and i have had so many -- so much experience with terrific reporters. never turned down an interview. never kept a reporter from talking to an official. that is about -- aside from having reporters in the room while we debate policy, that is pretty open. a great relationship with reporters, it can be done well. the rules are there for a not rules on reporters,
rules on staff. two big rules, one is a reason. there is a difference with talent. with his decades of experience he talked to the deputy assistant secretary of the treasury who has never in his life spoken to a reporter before. there is asymmetry in talent. one is the craft, the other one is not. the rules of sourcing, the note on how to talk to reporters, on what the traditions are in talking to reporters. the asymmetry in knowledge. they do not know what was said yesterday, sometimes even by the secretary of their department. they do not know what other stuff this reporter has been
reporting on. that official can be held by-- helped by speaking to a public affairs office about what the story is. those of two great reasons. there are just two final thoughts, the rules are for i have not for reporters. never impose rules on reporters. -- imposed rules on reporters. we can get more into why i think that makes sense. i have never taken it out on a reporter for going around me and calling. the job of the reporter as
stated is to try to find information and ask questions and develop sources. i would never blame a reporter for doing his job and i have many times defended a reporter, making sure that my officials are doing what they need to do. second, for press officers, they have an obligation to know their subject areas, master it, know the areas always and develop trust relationships with reporters, prepare officials to be very good communicators and be good communicators to make up for the decades that the reporter might have on them and
to help reporters develop useful sources, and i underlined that, because it is important for the reporter to have useful sources. that does not mean i will not be in the room and that it is open door all the time, but it is really important for reporters to have good, professional relationships with policy officials. there is a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. i will leave it there. john? >> i would like to say that i think that the concept here is a little misleading, because really, we have the same mission and goal in mind on the public
affairs side and media side. we really are working toward the same goal. the government, i will go on record to say the government needs the media to help us in this process because your readers trust you. it is difficult to understand policy. they are looking to get things explained to them in ways that they can understand. your readers trust you to provide that information in an unbiased manner. because you have devoted readers, watchers, whatever, listeners as the case may be, because of that you can reach sectors of the public that we may not be able to direct the target ourselves, pretty much everyone. social media, all the ways that we communicate with the public, we really do need to work well
with the media to get the information out. just like everyone said, the relationship goes both ways. you need to be able to trust that we are giving you complete and accurate information. at the same time we need to at the same time we need to trust that you will use that information correctly. i have been in this field for 32 years and you're supposed to gasp with disbelief over that, saying i am too young. of all the reporters i have worked with i can count on one hand when a reporter has intentionally misused the information i have provided.
there are stakes and stories that come out. they are negative in tone, that as of the store was. i can count only four times. that tells me in general, i can trust you guys. hopefully you have all felt that i am also trustworthy and i try to work toward that. i think a great majority of the officers do strive for that goal. we had some side conversations earlier. the landscape of journalism has changed. when i first started years ago, there were more specialized journalists and beat reporters.
dedicated to the specific there are very. few folks on the beat have been writing those kinds of stories. i used to work in the maryland department of the environment all the time. tim wheeler had been writing environmental stories for decades and understood the technical issues and historical context of the environmental issues in the state of maryland, sometimes better than the folks i was working with. over the decades, the landscape has changed. it is getting more expensive to keep these reporters, fewer and fewer are dedicated and more are general on assignment. that means that you guys, you reporters have to run around and cover a variety of different
topics and you do not have the time to spend, to learn the details. there is only so much you can do. there is an education factor now that has to be built in.the public heirs -- affairs and explain it to you the best we can. these are the important things to understand. there is a lower factor of trust of working with reporters who do not necessarily have the background or the time to do it. back when i worked with folks
like the tim wheeler of the have a very knowledgeable agreement between them. they do not have the understanding of the environmental context. over the 32 years of my career i worked at the federal level. i also worked in the military. be -- i willars, get to the and a second. i lost that additional point. and my job has been to change more, to do more of the facilitation and i used to do in
the past. more important may, finding the expert who can explain things to you. he mentioned working in hives. it is so true. a lot are micro-focus. for of that career i have two scientists, engineers and cops. donovan speak in plain language. experts in their field but they may not know what it is they do and how this affects a larger policy. this is the context that you are looking for.
most of the time they do not want to know how this is really going to affect things in the real world. government officials are frequently afraid to talk to the press. it is not because of the dire consequences of possibly getting in trouble. they have seen reports over the years of this. we took it out of context. they got my story wrong. or he perfectly well-balanced story comes out. it was not a positive story. that to them is a nightmare. to that guy?talk he is on the opposition? what is your job. the government officials do not really recognize the fact that
a balanced story is as good as we are going to yet. that is our job. , believe itll you or not, you might think we are the bad guys. we are normally advocating on your the half each turn only. we are the ones convincing officials they should be talking. to get theing scientists, the engineers, comfortable with being able to get out in front of a microphone and talk to folks. we help to keep them focused. we help to provide the context. we follow up on the information that will add to your understanding of the story. we ensure that when you hang up the phone or at the end of the sent you have every it -- but of information you need to write the complete story.
that is our goal. another thing you are probably not going to leave, i come from a d.o.d. background, i was active duty navy and in reserves 15 years. but military public affairs folks are trained to the maximum disclosure, minimum delay. i have always worked under that and a lot of people do, not just in d.o.d. but take that to heart in a lot of government agencies at federal, state and local levels. they really want to get out as much information as they can with the minimum amount of delay. now, where do the delays come in? before information can go out we have to make sure it doesn't
violate one of four things. there are four caveats. one is -- and boundaries -- it is security. we don't want to reveal information that will violate security. just for your understanding, security and damaging information are not necessarily the same thing and carolyn and i had a discussion about that with one of her but is questions and we should have probably brought that out into two separate questions because damaging information has nothing to do with security. damaging information, damaging to your reputation, has nothing to do whether you are damaging security. second is accuracy. we want to make sure what you are getting is absolutely correct. the third is policy. it also includes privacy. when i say, that the government just by nature of what we do has
access to a lot of private information. we get business sensitive information from industry. we get personal identifying information from people who are applying for services. there are all sorts of things where those things come into play and it is government policy not to release the names of injured before their next of kin have been notified. then the final thing is propriety to make sure we are not out there insult being the sensibilities of the public. >> those are the four things we look at when we screen information. we make sure it meets those criteria. that is the important step that is happening behind the scenes. i'll tell you now again trust is a mutual thing. we need to be able to trust each other. you need to understand where we are and we need to understand where you are. i will ask you if we get to the advice thing and we will probably get to that later but i will say now don't hide your agenda. when you give us a call, tell us what you are really writing. tells what the story is about. i had a reporter call up and ask me a question about standards for technology. ok. why did you want to know about the standards of x-ray technology? he really wasn't writing about that. he was writing about standards in general and how they apply in
an industry. he was justing that as an example. because in our interaction he told us what he was writing i was able to give him an enormous story on standards and how they are applied and how they are set instead of just microfocusing on the initial question, which was writing about the x-rays. so, tell us what you are really writing about and we can help you better. and don't automaticably assume that the government is evil and we are hiding stuff because that's not the case. journalists have a code of ethics. trust but verify. but also not to violate the truth. just as well the government public affairs folks, believe it or not, we have a code of ethics and that code of ethics from the national association of
government communicators that truth is inviolable and sacred and that providing public information is an essential civil service and that the public at large and each citizen then has a right to equal, full, understandable and timely facts about their government. i will tell you now that at the federal, state, local, government levels public affairs officers take had to heart and strive to uphold the spirit of those ethics. >> thank you. thank you all. is there anything that was said on this side that you all department get a chance to include in your comments that you want to touch on? or is there anything that you want to talk about in terms of we talked about perhaps starting with a discussion -- it seems like you did a pretty thorough job of going over how media and public affairs officers interact. is there anything you want to add in terms of, for example, what i think is the core of the debate, which is the requirement in many agencies that officials only talk to reporters through the public affairs office.
>> two things. one is that there was some comment about censorship or restricting freedom and if there isn't some line drawn. i will never excuse the bad practices of particularly poor public affairs officers. there are a lot of them out there. i don't excuse some of the poor work by reporters either. and i know none of you do either. but we are not going to have the reporter in the room when policy deliberations are taking place. no one would expect that. so, somewhere there's going to be a line drawn as to when it is and isn't appropriate to be communicating with reporters.
when is the time, how much, there are reasonable standards for that, i think. but where they are on any particular issue will be a matter of some negotiation. but i think that is clear. so, call it censorship when an officer is in the room, i think that is probably a little bit hyperbolic for what a good press officer might be trying to do. i think there are ways for professionals to do it the right way. i think we could do a lot better job of teaching how to do it the right way. i think we ought to be teaching
how to do it in an appropriate and respectful way so more information gets out. i have a reputation for really liking reporters, which i don't know if that is a good reputation or not. but i have great relationships with reporters. i like negligent and respect what they have to do and i think there are good ways to work that way. >> as you were talking i was thinking to myself we should not have gotten such laudable public affairs people up here. we should have found some crappy ones so we could point to their ways because these guys do it right. tony, you said that reporters shouldn't be punished for going around the press office. what about government employees? >> yes, they should be punished. >> whippings, beatings? >> right.
you know, here is the way i look at it. i used to talk to our staff especially at treasury department, where john mentioned, a lot of staff, believe it or not, you don't understand they really, really, really don't want to talk to you. i'm trying to talk them into talking to you. they don't want to. so, there is a real reluctance and distrust of a lot of officials to talking to reporters. that is one thing. we are up in the corners of reporters to help these officials understand that they can talk and you can trust this reporter and talk to him. it is ok. and they just feel like they are going to be screwed, they are going to be embarrassed. there is going to be a quote in the paper that's going to hurt them. what do they get out of it? what is good for them out of it? so, so often i'm the abdicate for reporter. the second part is if you are
talking to reporters all the time, you are known as the person who talks to reporters all the time. and that is not necessarily great for your reputation. so, when there is the leak about some piece of news that is maybe it is damaging or whatever, where is the first place they look, the guy that talks to reports. >> or the last guy they tell because he's a blabber mouth. >> so it is not great for your reputation. i have some who didn't want to be embarrassed that they couldn't talk to a reporter and they would call me into their room and they would say i'm going to call them become, could you silently listen in. you thought you were talking to someone without someone listening but they wanted
somebody there to help listen to the conversation so that they know that they could be helped along in it. >> they want a witness to the fact that they didn't say what showed up in the paper. but there are definitely people who don't want to talk to reporters. but then there are people who might want to talk to reporters and so my question remains, do you two agree with the rules on the books in the pentagon for example that say -- pentagon for example if they talk to officials outside of official channels should be subject to disciplinary action? >> i think in the national security -- in national security agencies i think it is a different standard than in other
agencies. i think it is a different standard because sometimes you are dealing with, you know, market sensitive information. not going to have an open book on market sensitive information. so, that -- i think that should be subject to some form of discipline. i do think there are different standards and different obligations on the level of information that you have, absolutely. >> john, did you want to add anything? >> i was basically saying it depends on what's at stake and how damaging the information can be. and i'm talking damaging to things like national security. i would like to elaborate on a couple of things. it was said earlier a good reporter will go around the p.a.o. and that is assuming if you work through a p.a.o. and you have worked through channels and you are not a good reporter and i don't think that's the case. what defines a good reporter is the ultimate quality of the
accuracy and the balance of the final piece. whether you go through official channels or around them has nothing to do with whether or not you are a good reporter. what it comes down to is how well you trust your source and who you are looking at for the source. >> i would disagree with that, because i think that obviously good reporters work with public affairs people. but if a reporter is stymied by a public affairs person a good reporter will go around that person and try to find the information in another which. don't you agree with that? >> but we expect that you are going to do that. and that's not good reporter versus bad reporter. a bad reporter would be something who gets the no and walks away. but what i'm saying is when you said -- or someone said a good reporter goes around the p.a.o., that is not -- >> only when necessary. >> that's a whole different type of thing. we really expect you are going
to try to do that. but i see much less of the some time stymying that you are referring to. >> why would you go around the p.a.o. when they will do the work for you? >> exactly. i will use an example in the 1990's when fisteria was first discovered in the chesapeake bay. it is one of these odd little microbes that can change its physical form and can do that into 24 different stages and forms and do it at will. that makes it a little bit of a scary thing. what happened was when it feels that it needs to do something or needs a nutrient like i need vegetables. they get a craving. i have a sweet tooth. they change their chemical composition and will release a chemical in the water which triggers fish to be -- to get sensitive.
and those fish will release a chemical and that is the trigger chemical for the microbe. it is scary, weird stuff but there little algae eater can become a flesh eater. so we were winding up with hundreds of thousands of fish washing up on the shore dead with nasty sores on them. the commercial fishermen in maryland were catching fish with big open sores that they couldn't sell. so, people were in a panic about what the heck was going on with fish. well the scientists that were working for the government were so fascinated by this unique microbe that they actually forgot the fact that people were afraid. so when the initial interviews and initial stories started coming out and the scientists were talking about this amazing microbe and all these amazing things that it does, they didn't put it into the context of what was happening.
so, what was happening fishermen were ingesting the microbe in the spray so it was scary and it took the public affairs folks to translate that and get the scientists on track and say get your led out of the lab and put it in real world context. what does it mean to people? can they eat the fish. can they catch this or does it become a disease. that is an example i wanted to give of how the p.a.o. can really make a big difference. >> thank you. i think that we've spent a good bit of time on this table so i want to revisit you all. i want to give you a chance, just throwing it out there to whoever wants to comment. you have heard a lot. rather than me throw a question to you, for starters i want to give you a chance if there's something you heard that you
want to particularly address, go for it. >> first of all, i agree with you, john, if tony and -- >> which john. >> i agree with you, john, if tony and john were the others we were dealing with i suspect we would have very few problems. but what the statistics of carolyn's survey bear out aside from the bell curve is that more and more of the p.a.o.'s are exhibit being the problems that we are dealing with. i disagree, tony, that reporters are not punished for going around or not abiding by the rules. many p.a.o.'s have rules for reporters, not just for staffers. and if you disobey the rules, there are consequences. there is a black-balling that happens to some reporters. there is a hierarchy of we will give the information or we will hold conferences with these reporters, we will even sends
out press releases to these news outlets and not these. there is definitely a punishment factor. that's why i think so many reporters have been silent for so long because, well, if i make waves, if i protest this, there is going to be a consequence. another thing that concerns me is this idea of so many government people being afraid or unwilling to talk to us. i think that there has to be an understanding among government all the way from the top to the bottom the name public servant and civil servant still means something. we're their bosses. they need to be trained to be ok
with talking to us. they would rather talk to one reporter surely than 100 people from the local area who are concerned about x subject and can't get the data out, that are calling them or e-mailing them. i think the idea that there are so many government people that can't talk to us, you talk to your boss. it is just given. there is no organization where an employee goes oh, i can't tell the boss what i'm doing. he scares me or she scares me. so, i think there needs to be a training of government people to some basic level, say, because you work for the government, there's an expectation that you may need to talk to the public, whether it is the public in the form of a reporter or the public in terms of joe q citizens who calls or e-mails, that's what you have to do, folks. >> i think that one very basic thing that is not being addressed is the fact that on a routine -- on a very frequent, almost routine basis, when we did talk to people away from the "surveillance" the story is very different and things come out, sometimes massive critical
things, that are not going to come out when the person is being "watched" by their agency. they are in effect being watched by their bosses and the entire political administration. for time immemorial that is how things have come out and it is almost a routine fact of life. and the surveillance stops that from coming out. also, the thing about not putting rules on reporters, that is kind of a distinction without a difference. if you stop everybody in the agency from talking without the surveillance, then you have stopped that communication. it is one of the most extraordinary and serious things
that can happen in any situation or society. >> i just want to remind you that almost 40% of p.a.o.'s said that they do punish reporters who write stories they don't like and prohibit the staff from talking to them. so, it is not something that is not happening. it is happening quite a bit. that is almost half. that is a lot. and two-thirds of p.a.o.'s are monitoring interviews. so, this is not an insignificant problem. >> if i could add on that, i might have said it wrong when i said it. i was not saying that rules on reporters don't happen.
i said they ought not happen. my rules are for -- i don't control reporters. reporters work for other people. they don't work for me. i never -- except for sort of standard, you know, rules in a press conference, right? and normal sourcing rules that we agree to, agree on a sourcing, then we hold each other to that sourcing. and i think those rules are sort of mutually binding and beneficial. and also on the accompanying officials to reporters, you can call them surveillance or whatever, my view it ought to be 100%, not 40%. i don't see it as a bad thing and i don't see it as necessarily chilling of
information. there seems to be a presumption that a reporter, if a reporter is asking a question they are entitled to all the information that an official has to give, and that is an extraordinary presumption, that all of the information is open to reporters. that's not -- that's never been a tradition of government at all. there is going to be some judgment involved and some information is not appropriate for dissemination at the moment a reporter happens to be asking the question. that is not nefarious, that is not censorship. that is not anti-democratic or a violation of any of the amendments of the constitution. it is just a matter of common sense in the middle of a deliberative discussion or sometimes an official doesn't actually know whether it is appropriate to divulge some information because it may be actually illegal for him to divulge certain information if it is a national security issue. so, the presumption that it is
open any time a reporter asks a question is an extraordinary presumption. >> do you think the presence of a public affairs officer in an interview would lead someone to potentially varnish what they say or not say something that is critical to get out there? does it have any effect? >> absolutely, it can have some impact. >> by the way, you did not misspeak. you said that you did not think that there should be retribution for reporters. you didn't say it doesn't happen. i heard you and you said it right. >> i was going to say more often than not having the p.a.o. in
the room ensures that some information does get out. because sometimes when officials are speaking they will go off on a tangent or kind to stick to one point and never get around to completely answering the question. more times than not you will see public affairs folks saying you forgot to mention this and don't forget that. the other part that tony was talking about where sometimes the information is not releasable and into is really critical during a crisis situation where you don't know how many people are injured or you don't know the cause of things and most of the time when there is some sort of crisis almost the first questions that come out from the reporters are less about the incident in hand and more about who is to blame for this. and we don't know that and we are not going to know that and we are not going to point
fingers or speculate. that is a critical thing, and i think if we keep in mind when i mentioned before things that i would like to advise reporters don't hide your agenda and don't assume we are hiding something, and also don't ask us to speculate because we are only going to be able to give you facts. >> any of you want to make any additional points. particularly i would like you to address the point they are making that they can't just allow any government official to talk to anybody at any time and there is a need to control, in the interests of accuracy who talks. do you think that is legitimate? >> i think it is painted with too broad a brush. generally, the government is erring extremely or -- on the side of caution. so, many government officials who would be just fine talking to us to give us information -- and we are not talking necessarily about sensitive subjects or a crisis. we are talking about the day-in and day-out workings of government. many of them, like i said, it is
sort of in case and it does have this effect of shutting the conversation down or shutting the understanding and the information down because you are too much worried about what if. >> can i add one thing? >> sure. >> in a lot of agencies, and depending on the kinds of work they did, the policy is pretty broad and it depends on the agency and work they do. but i know many places where i have worked over the years the policy was if a reporter approaches you in the field about what it is you are working on and what you are doing, you can talk to them about it, tell them about it within the parameters of your expertise and your job and what you know. but don't talk to them about how this affects larger policy.
if you are a road repair guy and you can talk about the repair you are doing on the road. what does this mean to the state's road repair budget? don't comment on that because that's not your lane of expertise. that is what we tell folks. go ahead and talk to the reporters. if you sit there and say i have to call my p.a.o. first that gets kind of uncomfortable. so, a lot of times, depending on what the agency is and the kind of work going on and kind of information they are protecting, a lot of times they have the authority to talk to a report. they need to let us know right away so we can track it. the biggest thing is that the boss doesn't want to find out something has happened by reading it in the newspaper. >> for public affairs officers if there are any here or watching on tv, more than ever before, i think, is you -- most of the "bad stories" i have ever
dealt with are usually because there wasn't good communication between the public affairs officer and the reporter. and the reporter, who didn't have enough knowledge to write whatever the story is. now, that's not always the case. i have dealt with reporter who knew a lot more about some issues than i did. so, that forced me to have to get a lot smarter on things. but reporters are dealing with really complicated issues, a lot of different beats, a lot of time pressure it write. you cannot let reporter write a story based on not great information. you have to really work hard with reporters and you need to do it when the news isn't happening. you should overwhelm reporters with access and education and -- just help them. the very best reporters i have ever dealt with came into my office and said can you help me
understand this. and i spent a lot of time just talking and help understand. not when they are not writing a story, right, come in and say help me understand this, can i can i talk to this person and talk to them because they wanted to climb up the learning curve on an issue. and i have so much respect for reporters who really took the time to work hard at it. but as a public affairs officer you have an obligation to do it. you cannot just point after the story has been written and say that reporter didn't know what he was talking about. it is your job to make sure the reporter knows what he is talking about. it is your job to make sure that
information, meaning incomplete information, is getting out in the public place. and no reporter wants to put bad information out, ill informed information. >> those relationships are so critical. >> can i get a show of hands of how many want to ask a question so i have an idea? we should probably get started on that. please come up to the microphone. if you would state your nameed a affiliation that is appreciated. >> some time sarah wexler we are with the union of concerned scientists and we often here from scientists who want to talk to reporters but are too afraid. some of you have gotten our grading of the agency media policies but for some of them we
actually have to do foia -- foia requests. but on our web site we have logged all those agency media policies. so if you are in a position where maybe you are not talking to a p.a.o. as nice as these two gentlemen you might be able to refer to those agency media policies. i have one question for the panelists and more the reporter side. do you ever reach out to nonprofits? often those folks -- i used to be a journalist and became a nonprofit advocate. they have a point of view but they often know a heck of a lot about agencies and know a lot of people at agencies or people who used to work at agencies who sometimes we can be match makers. >> working with nonprofits and working with a variety of entities is important for all of
us in communication. later on we can chat about some examples of where we've actually gone to the nonprofits on the opposing side of an issue and brought them in and sat them down and went out with a consolidated message and sat down with the reports to explain a really technical detailed issue and got both sides out at the same time. i think it is a critical thing to do. >> some time sue darcy with a newsletter that covers medical devices. the agency i have to deal with is the food and drug administration. i have watched in just the past five years this agency really shut down to reporters. so i have a couple of questions and maybe you know the answer or
maybe not. i'm now at the point where i can't even build a relationship with a source there because the press office doesn't allow any reporter to talk directly, having an interview, only on rare occasions and you have to line up the interview. how can we make this process work better? and what is it that these agencies are doing with slides that they have agency staff show at big public meetings? because i have been to three or four of them, these big public meetings, slide presentations are shown and immediately on the day of the meeting if you are a reporter attending you ask for them and they tell you we have to clear the slide first. is this censorship or not? >> that is stupidity, frankly. if you are shown slides in any public space they should be immediately available. i would say it is stupidity. you are trying to get information out, why would you not want to make it available? >> i was told by the current press officer for my division at f.d.a. i should contact her two weeks before the meeting so she can relay to all the staff that you are going it give slide presentations that they have to give it to the public and can't sit on them and hold it for a week or two because by then the story is dead and i can't write my story without the slide presentation because it gives a lot of scientific information.
>> i want to note bush administration was apparently more open. >> i believe it was during the bush administration when he got angry there were a lot of leakers at one particular agency and may have been agriculture or e.p.a. but he warned all the staff, all answers must come from the press officer. you could no longer have staff . and i swear to god i believe that is what has happened at f.d.a. because everybody i try to talk to at a public meeting at f.d.a. is frightened of me. they go oh, no, my boss will fire me. >> f.d.a. is one agency i looked
at when doing research for this and as far as i can tell they are not one of the ones that bans contact between officials. >> come on. >> no, no, no. in their official policy. this is the point i'm making. that regardless of what it says in the official policy -- >> i can speak for f.d.a. i don't know what their practices are. i will say there is absolutely no question they deal with very market sensitive information. so, if a staffer at f.d.a. would indicate to you, for example, that a drug or medical device is not ready or is going to be no problem getting approved -- >> [inaudible]. so i can write about it in my newsletter.
>> i think we need to move on to the networks person. thank you. >> >> the interrupt department filed a lawsuit to block the merger between american airlines and u.s. airways. senator amy klobuchar asked if the merger with reduce competition and increase prices for passengers. this is evidence that they are
trying to hide something. that we went to war. it turned out they did not have a nuclear weapons program to ifak of. the question is, justified int was not trusting the iraqi regime because of this, why should the american people not be justified. >> that is the question. >> thank you. relive all going to of the press operations at that time.
i will just leave it there. i do not know what the practices were and whether scientists can talk to them or not. i'm not going to fight can. >> it is really a question of trust. maybe the reporter should just be drinking together more. i don't know. >> that is the best advice we have heard. >> we have something every month. it is an opportunity where we should be going to this and rubbing elbows with each other when there is not a crisis or a story and everything is off the record. let's go and have a casual chat and have a beer and pizza. >> i am a reporter with the federal times. we cover the federal government.
i totally agree with you. i would also add there are a lot of agencies that will not deal with reporters on any basis except e-mail. employeese treasury now retired. send her an e-mail. one thing i found is that a lot they arethat political ploy ease. they worked on the campaign. should that be allowed? >> look. find talent where you can and match it up.
they do work for the people who are elect did. they are answerable to them. i was a political appointee. i do not think you could change your whole structure of government that way. i would encourage any administration to find the best talent for these jobs. i think they are critically important. with get into a fight bloomberg at one point when i was at the white house. they started this policy. it drives me crazy. there are times when you're in a meeting in a bloomberg reporter would e-mail and they said are you going to ask for a response? they started publishing said in an e-mail response. i got very angry with them.
saidd why don't you write in response to an e-mail question? what's they never would do. i said look. it looks like i am afraid to talk to you. you are noting that it was an e- mail thing. it affects my reputation. you want a timely response, i may have to eat bill -- e-mail you and you should not bear sniffer e-mailing you. is our policy. we have no choice. i sit here is the way it works. e-mails meeuters during the meeting, i'm going to answer them. if you want your reporters to wait until the meetings over and i can get to the phone and call you back, that is fine. you're just going to get the news last. so they changed their policy and
accepted my e-mails. >> we have less than two minutes left. i apologize for people who are not going to be able to ask their questions. here out of curiosity. i have been a member since 1963. i arrested twice by the u-haul highway patrol for refusing to use a meeting. i have a history of freedom of information. i would say a pox on both your houses. if that is the case i do not think the mainstream media do anything to talk about the treatment of the media and how information may be withheld or how it is being denied. house.n this half of the i was hired by the department of interior. as you member -- i was a member of the people way back then. i was told we are hiring you from the outside because most
people only know how to say no. i understand controlling. i would say a pox on your house because i think they're becoming too politically motivated and establishing more of a political correct agenda as opposed to disseminating information that should be available publicly. >> thank you very much for that question. [laughter] being here. all for actually, i find this conversation really heartening. i note a lot of commonality. despite the differences. i think that with a little more professionalism and a little more communication, these things can get better. we are adjourned. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2013]
>> this morning, rand paul talks about usa to beat it fox news sunday. bob corker appeared on abc this week. here is a look. >> we are not winning the hearts and minds of those in egypt. all they do is they see our aid is something that goes to bp beenof those who have taking away the rights for generations. they also see it stolen. mubarak stolen. he had fancy homes all around. it has to end. .t is it
it nothing but american weakness to continue this. they are projecting exactly the opposite. they are projecting american weakness. it shows that we are so weak we .ill not even adhere to our own they keep doing the same thing. when they roll tanks over protesters, that is not something that most americans would support. >> the actions are no doubt going to cause us to suspend aid. it is a time for us to recalibrate and look at what is our national interest. were is no question that overestimated what our leverage was. >> let me stop you right there. you switched your position. you think it is necessary to suspend the aid? >> we need to look at be tears
tiersyou be tears -- the of our aid. this is the debate as we look forward to next year. i think this whole discussion has been a little naive and shallow. the fact is we need to be looking at what is in our national interest. >> >> next, a discussion about the challenges to press freedom in egypt during the political transition timeframe. this is just over an hour. >> on my left we have sherif mansour, who is the coordinator for the committee to protect journalists. he has previously worked with freedom house in washington, and he managed advocacy training for activists in the middle east and north africa.
in 2010 he cofounded the quite famous egyptian association for change. a washington-based nonprofit mobilizing egyptians in the u.s. to support the opposition coalition led by mohamed elbaradei. sharif has been involved in monitoring egyptian elections in cairo and has worked as a freelance journalist. in 2004 he was honored by the center for human rights for his work in defending freedom of expression in egypt. on my right is adel iskander, who was a scholar of arab studies whose research focuses on media and communications. he is the author and editor of several works, including "al jazeera, the story of the network that is rattling governments and redefining modern journalism." and "edward said." his most recent publication is the anthology "egypt in flux, essays on an unfinished revolution."
you probably should've have waited to finish that book. he teaches at the center for contemporary arab studies and communication at georgetown university in washington, d.c. we will ask sherif to start. this meeting is being held today because the c.p.j. is launching its report on press freedom in egypt. the report is called "on the divide, press freedom and risk in egypt." there are copies available. please pick one up on your way out. i will let him talk about the report. >> thank you very much. thank you for holding the event. and for adel to come along. he is one of the people who helped us in writing the report. about the media environment in egypt. this report is a compilation of all our work monitoring the
egyptian press violations since morsi took over in 2012. we have had more than 40 different pieces of commentary about press violations, press issues in egypt. and we conducted an assessment mission that, led by our executive director to cairo in march, more than 15 people from across the spectrum, ngo's, civil society, government, and opposition, to assess their perception of press freedom under morsi. since then, we have been planning to issue the report. the original date was june 15. you know what happened then. we decided to wait a little bit and see if there was anything to add about the post-morsi era. that resulted in a whole chapter that you will find in the second chapter that we call post- military censorship. that chapter, we tried as much to assess different things. one of them is the legal impact. this is our biggest finding, that yes, egypt had a revolution, several interim governments, and each of them have promised to include and introduce reforms to the system,
including the press environment. for so long, the journalists in egypt have advocated for abolishing a lot of the restrictions on journalists and the press, and every government that came to power since mubarak said they will respond to that. they did not. the muslim brotherhood, particularly under morsi, had a complete opportunity to change the system. they ran a process to draft a new constitution. even at the end, they could not introduce anything they wanted
to do. on the contrary, they did not just keep a lot of the press restrictions, they introduced others. in a constitution that was approved at the end of 2012. one of our partners, the arab network for human rights, counted as many as 70-something articles in the egyptian penal code, including the press law, that restricts freedom of the press and freedom of speech. in addition to that, in addition to the legal aspects, the operational aspect, how the government is handling critical voices, all the governments since mubarak was ousted have also fallen short of respecting critical views. under morsi, there was a whole campaign against the media. intimidation, physical and legal intimidation for journalists that included hundreds of cases of profiling against critical journalists.
accusing them of defamation charges. one of our local partners, the egyptian organization of human rights, has counted 600 cases after nine months only of president morsi's tenure. that is like several times more the number of cases that were filed during mubarak's 30 years. the comparison is huge, how much the specific tactic, which we considered in the past a hallmark of the mubarak regime, morsi has won the title fair and square. later on, also morsi supporters have waged a series of attacks, physical attacks against journalists. we have counted in the first years of morsi's tenure, 78 attacks, physical attacks preventing journalists from covering opposition protests mainly. those also happened around the
media production city, which in several cases the muslim brotherhood and allies wanted to limit and intimidate media coverage of the opposition by organizing sit-ins, which sees to media city, which is a hub for almost all tv stations in egypt, including independent and private ones. that happened three times during the year. it only happened when morsi wanted to push in controversial policies. one of them was against the army. one of them was a constitution. one of them was trying to crackdown on the media.
all in all, president morsi had kept a lot of the restrictions and renewed and used more of those restrictions and introduced new ones. the military government, in summary, over the last months have waged a wide campaign of censorship. it started immediately at the speech the general gave to oust morsi. several minutes after, several police vehicles stormed into the media city, physically stopped coverage of at least five stations that support president morsi, former president morsi, and arrested 200 people and later on kept 21 of them under investigations of so-called inspiring to overturn the chance to
speak one word before he was arrested. stations are closed. some of those who work for the stations are kept behind bars. accusations of inciting violence. two things here, one of them is that there is an executive body making an administrative decision without any judicial overview or independent assessment of the content of those stations. that violates international standards. we try in the report to introduce some of those. that took precedent place right after the genocide
in rwanda where you can see the most direct link between incitement in the media and violence taking place. the participants in this conference, including people from the press freedom organization, journalists, and also people who represent the government opinion of maintaining order and preventing crime. the way they have handled this, to reach a balance in which they can respect individual rights of speech and also the government mandate of using sanctions to prevent crime. they have said that mainly we need a very clear and specific law that defines what incitement of violence is and also directly links it to changes or events on the ground, and also has an independent verification from a court that follows that law and interprets that law.
it should not be an executive decision. so, this is one of the key issues that we monitor, whether this interim government led by the military as respecting freedom of speech. promises very similar to the once made by morsi to respect freedom of speech. one of them was delivered on, abolishing or reducing the sentence of charges of insulting the president. limiting it only to reasonable fines, up to $5,000 per case. but there are other important conditions. promises that need to be implemented, including abolishing of criminal charges on press violations, specifically jail sentences. we also introduced some
recommendations at the end of the report for political parties, the international community. mainly to safeguard and protect the press by amendments in the constitution, which is an ongoing process that could conclude in a few months, but also helping independent of the judiciary so that they can act as an arbitrator and give press freedom. and also for political parties to help and secure and protect journalists, because we have a responsibility to the government in facilitating the journalists work. the international community should keep press freedom on the agenda. it's a key time to interpret the interim government's behavior and the response. this is the report. i try to summarize as much as possible.
we are open for questions later. thank you, again. >> thank you. you finished way before time as well. >> first and foremost, thank you very much for the invitation, both to the atlantic council and for cpj, for having me here. my thoughts and reflections are going to try and not reiterate what sharif had explained but rather taking into the direction of the state of journalism in egypt and how legal and institutional problems we have described thus far in terms of the various authorities that have then in place in the past two years have had as far as an impact when it comes to journalistic practice. if i were to assess the situation as far as journalism is concerned, the last two years there are characteristic -- are a time when reporting in egypt
has flourished and faltered. sometimes in tandem. we have seen the tail end of the last period of the mubarak era, there was an uptick in sort of openness of the media. journalists were starting to feel far more liberated, or were prepared to take greater risks and be as courageous as he could be within certain parameters as far as their news organization deemed permissible. of course, that culminated during the 18 days of the uprising, and in the aftermath it appeared as though the only pandora's box, the only black ox was the military. for over six years, the military had fairly strong grasp as far as the media is concerned. very little information about the military's political role,
but more important, the economic assets in country had ever made its way into the newspapers or in public debate. nevertheless, it did not take long before that pandora's box opened up. during the 18 months of -- the interim period, during consecutive periods of political jockeying between various groups, notably the muslim brotherhood and alliance with various revolutionary groups that felt ostracized or marginalized by progress in the political scheme, that led to clashes in the streets. and the clashes in the streets provided munition for many of those news organizations to begin to venture into that space and begin to critique the military in a manner they had not been previously.
we saw the military recalibrate in some --retaliate in some respects. it was critical for skaf to illustrate their commitment to an open and free media environment in egypt. around that time that they ratified relicensed 16 new satellite stations, some that are islamist, others that are private that are now espousing a very anti-brotherhood position, so basically they opened up the spectrum significantly, while at the same time, ringing back the ministry of information after having promised to dissolve it entirely. basically a mixed bag. nevertheless, from a journalistic standpoint, at the time when morsi was elected to assume the presidency, i think
that was probably the widest margin of openness for journalism in egypt. shortly thereafter, of course, morsi found himself at odds politically with various groups, and that of course, translated into animosity from various news organizations that ascribe to a particular ideological stance or head interests that were not served by the muslim brotherhood. more importantly, what culminated was not a particularly open environment for the media. there was immediate retraction of the various gains that the media had accomplished during that period. probably the most important or the most critical and problematic of those
curtailments was the rise of a populist movement that could be utilized and mobilized at will to target news organizations to besiege the media production city and things of that sort. it was no longer the apparatus of the state that was the sole instrument for the oppression of the media. rather, it was something a little bit more complicated. the egyptian public, or the egyptian people, which is a necessary tool or has become a figure of speech -- where do the egyptians stand? we support morsi. we came out en masse to oppose him. as a figure of speech, it was used to critique the media. and arguably during that period, there was a struggle to really maintain some degree of professionalism within the egyptian media scene. towards the end, i would say probably shortly after the struggle over the constitution
in november and december, 2012, that is when things really -- or the polarization became so entrenched that it became practically intractable. that media organizations picked a side and pushed for it in a manner that, of course, sort of was we will during for-- bewildering for audiences that were not polarized, or may have seemed problematic from the standpoint of international journalists reporting on egypt at the time. you could not get two sides of the same story on the same network. the muslim brotherhood, politicians and officials, and islamists in general, would be prorated 24 hours a day -- be berated 24 hours a day on private networks.
on the islamist channels, the opposition could you no good, and they were realized and there were incitements. basically, whatever had been accomplished or gained journalistically speaking in terms of defining the characteristics and the ethics and the morality, whatever morals grounding journalism as a profession happens to have in egypt, was quickly wilting. but nevertheless, for those who believe there is something to be said about the value of having a partisan press, so long as it's diverse and covers a wide variety of different views, some rejoiced in these possibilities, that the there was an egyptian equivalent of fox news and msnbc. but this organization took on a far more ominous outlook in the daily after the removal of mohammed morsi. the examples that were described, where curtailments
became, once again, the dominion of the state. the state said, this is problematic programming. this is in opposition to the new political circumstance, and it cannot continue to exist. so stations were taken off air. journalists were detained. where unfortunately, we are facing a circumstance now where we've gone a commendation of different factors. the polarization remains steadfast, more so than ever before, almost to the extent that when you are watching egyptian television program, you switch between channels and they can create a sense of schizophrenia, because on one side, you hear a narrative and then the other side you see the complete counterpoint,the polar opposite. the two conditions are -- one heavy-handed attempt to censor information that would be deemed
problem attic to the transitional --problematic to the transitional governance process. then more subtly is a process of self-censorship. this self-censorship is not necessarily the one we have grown accustomed to whereby journalists out of fear of what repercussions, legal repercussions they may face and the liability of expressing opposition views, it is more complicated. it is almost as if by committing themselves to a specific political camp, if they were to contradict the messaging of that camp, they would risk the continuity of the transition process or the argument that this is a coup. so the self-censorship i think is largely an opportunistic self-censorship, imposed by journalists for journalists to create sort of a media climate, and a psychic milieu within the country.
that comes to the head with the events of last night and today, which i think for those of you who are following egypt closely, you will be well aware of the fact that two journalists have been killed, one of whom works for skye news, and another that works, a cameraman for skye, and a reporter for gulf news, a uae- based newspaper. the circumstances behind their killings are not clear. nevertheless, it at least lives up the performance of the morsi era, where there was at least two killings -- am i correct? during that period. and they arrested numerous
journalists. in a couple of months, the egyptian media environment has suffered significant setbacks. but i would argue that, while the setbacks that are immediately identifiable, of course the loss of life as much as we tend to mourn and focus on this, i think the greatest and gravest fallback has largely been a loss of any commitment to the journalistic practice as an important condition for the transition towards democratic governance. so, today we are at that point where media content precipitates a collision course, a political collision course between various parties. all of this to say that, really, most programming on egyptian media is comprised of opinion with spring things of news.
that's a -- sprinklings of news. nevertheless, i think it is a product of 60 years of false messaging. and the absence, of course, historically, journalists are the most reputable and veteran journalist in egypt were often opinion writers, the equivalent of syndicated columnist. even if you use the word -- [arabic] until probably the beginning of 2000, it would imply that one of the notable writers who had stopped reporting back when they were in their early 20's. at the end of the day, egyptian media was anchored on opinionated content. today, we are back to this opinionated content. arguably, the significant difference is that the
impositions are no longer from the hierarchical tiers at the top. that applies to the state media. i cannot imagine the state broadcasting has reached a level of liberty from its own structural entrenchment that you could criticize the military on channel one or now tv openly. we have not seen it happen. in fact, there were a couple of circumstances where journalists were taken off air or there seem to be some sort of suspicious interruption of programming when something that was deemed critical to the military was being aired. so there is that component. but i think that is far less substantial than what i described earlier. i cannot find the proper word for it.
maybe someone else has, maybe there is a term. we are in the presence of lawrence, who has taught journalism in egypt. perhaps during the question and answer period, we can pick your brain as to whether or not there is an appropriate word to describe self censorship that is not necessarily out of fear of authority. that is probably one of the most problematic aspects moving forward. at the end of the day, one characteristic that we need to sort of recognize as probably a major detriment to journalistic practice moving forward is the sort of a crescendo of jingoistic nationalism in egypt today. and it is being drummed up arguably by both sides. just to serve their purposes. even though there appeared to be two different visions and two different perspectives that do not communicate across to one another, this entrenchment translates not just in the
broadcast media, but also in the social media. social media world, unfortunately because they are defined by our self selecting processes, have become two separate encampments that do not communicate to each other at all. and because typically news organizations and media utilize social media to amplify their messaging, they end up either helping precipitate that even more or benefiting from it. various groups do not speak to each other or across from each other anymore. so there are two parallel realities. when you hear stories from egypt today, it's either the muslim brotherhood, or a violent terrorist organization that are being dispersed by professional police and security force. or that the police came out and he used live ammunition and slaughtered hundreds if not thousands, depending on who you
listen to, of people. and so, this is unfortunately where we are. thank you for giving me an opportunity to speak. >> thank you. on that gloriously cheerful note, we are going to open the floor to questions. if you ask a question, perhaps the best thing to do is maybe to take two questions at a time. actually, we do not have that many people. can you just identify yourself so that we know who you are? hello. >> hannah. i work for the cluster newspaper macluster newspapers.-- mcclatchy newspapers. i remember there was a moment when after january 25 they were trying to purge state media of the stenographers and really,
there was this schizophrenic moment where there was an editorial line on the front page that did not match page three, because of the slow pace of this. i was wondering how far that process got along before what we are seeing now. and also, what is the state of the journalism syndicate right now? >> would you like both of them to take this? >> sure. >> well, as we mentioned in the report and also he alluded to, there were about four months after mubarak was ousted where there was no information minister. so you can see that this was a very unique time. also, in this unique time, a little bit after, there was a lot of movement, allowing more voices to appear. so, for example, one of the things we talk about in the report, a lot of morsi's supporters have said that he is
responsible for allowing a lot of those -- to exist. when he came into power, by the time he came into power, there were a lot more voices than there are now. many of those voices made by businessman who felt that there is an opportunity and there is needs for people to hear more news, that people were excited about politics for the first time. they were debating everything that happened. so we've seen a mushrooming of
new tv stations, diverse opinions. it was not until morsi came to power, that those tv stations were shrunk in terms of numbers and coverage. and they started to become entrenched in to two men camps. before them, you have seen -- there were people closer to the military, who were in the military, the muslim brotherhood have their own channel. they are not fully aligned. you can see a lot of spectrum happening. in terms of the syndicate of journalists, we are in touch with them and two of them have signed on to our recommendations. they are in agreement with our findings and our positions. and they have taken on a considerable role after ousting morsi. in the discussion was reform and the legal system. they have managed to convince
the interim government to restructure the high council and basically nominate people to be in the new counsel who will take on some press issues, including code of conduct, and managing the process, the press, media, in the interim period. so they are taking on fully by law now the mandate that used to belong to the council under morsi, which is a big role to play. they have nominated at least three of nine or ten members who are running the council right now. >> organizationally, did they endorse -- >> not organizationally. the current leadership of that syndicate, know -- not an ally
of morsi. there is a definite person that used to be the head of the syndicate for morsi, and he lost. last summer. yes, he has been not on a friendly basis, morsi, and as an ally to the government, but we have seen him defend a lot of the muslim brotherhood media and speak on their behalf. for example, he interfered to help publish the muslim brotherhood's freedom and justice party newspaper. he also spoke out on the killing of one of the muslim brotherhood journalists in front of the presidential guard.
he is now speaking on al-jazeera journalist who is in custody now on the charge of weapons possession. >> i think he covered most of the territory. if you follow the trajectory of the syndicate, which you did until various -- in various periods, until the last period of the mubarak era, it has been at odds with most governments. during the mubarak period and during morsi's time, at least it became more pronounced after the election of -- el -- now i think it's more cautious with regards to dealings with the military, but at the same time it is trying to strike a balance. i think the journalist syndicate is a really good barometer as far as the health of the egyptian journalistic enterprise that any given moment.
i think right now it's an interesting time. towards the late end of the morsi period, the syndicate had become almost fully activist against the government. now a little bit more cautious. the other point i would make with regards to the state media and reforms, especially newspapers and who writes what on the third page, to a large extent what ended up happening is that, again it depends who you speak to, because the governmentof mohammed morsi in the muslim brotherhood will accuse the state media of failing to be reined or refused to become an enterprise of state politics or refuses to be a platform for government.
most of these accusations are directed towards specific personalities, writers, editors on the grounds they are loyal to the former mubarak regime. upon the assent of the muslim brotherhood that age old hostilities remained. so they refuse to acknowledge that this may be part and parcel of the reform of the organization to serve as a watchdog role, which would be a transformative experience for any state broadcaster or state publication. on the contrary, critics of the muslim brotherhood would say that it is during that period some of the state media did a better job that they had, at least better than the time under mubarak. and almost certainly better than the performance today. so i think there was a window of opportunity for state media to get shuffled up. and i think the shuffling did happen. the question is, who is identifying it is a good thing and for what purpose?
so that is sort of where we are. when you have cataclysmic moments like the one we're are going to today, it becomes much easier to either contain or tame or bring state media into the fold to avoid inflaming the situation. now we've got a state of emergency for the month and curfews. at moments of heightened over securitization there is a tendency for whatever gains made within the state media to be retracted or to be camouflaged. >> next question? nancy? i'm sorry. >> so [inaudible] now you said you're watching two different camps.
is it just ideological polarization? [inaudible] and the lack of nonpartisan states for independent, objective media that can sustain themselves -- puts cash on the table for them. [inaudible] where can these groups -- find resources for these groups in order to sustain themselves? so they generate their own -- when something like that happens haves independence would to close down unfortunately. >> the answer is more freedom
and less involvement by the government and more innovative ways to fund and allow ngo's, civil society to own shares of tv's and media institutions. so far, the process has not changed at all to be able to open a channel or to be able to operate a newspaper. there is less polarization in the process, but it has to be reconsidered. a lot of the people in civil society would like to have their voices continue to have ability to reach out either by tv stations, radio and so on, without interference from the
government. it is also the fact that journalism itself has a responsibility here to speak in one voice and unite -- either -- against either or any of the media professional journalists. we see that as a role, is the journalist syndicate can play, as a civil society organization away from government interference over -- and sifting out what our journalistic standards are and what are "code of ethics" would entail. we need to revisit the law, allowing more voices to appear without asking for more fees to be put in by organizations or tv station, which allows more people to take shares and ownership and reduce the monopoly of parties or businessmen on the content of the media. >> i would add three points.
the first is an extremely utopian and impractical idea which is effectively the restructuring of state media to become something akin to a public broadcaster. and really privatizing most of the newspapers and magazines, of which there are too many to be read. it is a huge drain on the national budget. but nevertheless, state broadcasting, if i understand correctly, employs 40,000 people. so something needs to give in that respect. so there is that age-old dilemma that is not going to solve itself immediately.
and then the second point is, with regards to small, independent media enterprises, very lean, sort off the cuff, spontaneous, extemporaneous and, creative citizen-style journalism which is spreading in egypt and has become a source of her lines for almost all broadcasters nowadays. the amount of footage that comes out at the drop of a hat, something happens, you have hundreds of videos being circulated. i think that is becoming a critical part of the verification and cooperation and accuracy, dimension of news programming which is missing across the board. if you can verify, that it becomes newsworthy. the third, this is one of the few positive signs from what i have seen in some polls, that one of the top television news organizations -- it is probably -- of course, it does have its
ownpolemical anchors and talk show hosts, but by and large, as far as newscasts go, it is probably the most middle-of-the- road of all the private news organizations. since their ratings are extremely high, even though they do not cater to the polarities. they do not have any of the young pundits -- yelling pundits, they are still able to steer clear of all of this cacophony and maintain very high ratings compared to everyone else. so it seems like as far as audience are concerned, there is a space and an inclination towards news programming if it is made available. it just has to be -- this news has to be broken to all of the other broadcasters so that they
realize that news is what egyptians heaven appetite for, in addition to political debate have an appetite for, in addition to political debates. if some of these polls were to circulate widely, maybe the cbc's of this world and all the other stations would consider news programming a far more important product. >> if i may, a quick question. depending on the type of media, money is always going to be an overwhelming concern. i used to run a newspaper, and i can tell you it is expensive. for 24 pages, you are talking just production cost of over $50,000 a month. it's going to be difficult to keep out the large businesses or the state if it's print or television. online is easier. the other thing is the last time we had a properly independent -- in egypt independent is distinct from opposition -- the last time we had independent was when -- was founded in 2004.
and it has since given up any pretense at being an independent newspaper whatsoever. so we really do not have any left. i would like to ask you two this do you see a role for the state media? there are 40,000 people employed. we own two satellites. and other countries have state media's. that is publicly owned. so, do you see a role for the state media? we can start with you. >> i think there is a role. keep in mind that state media is the national archive of egyptian popular culture. everything from theatrical performances to children's shows that are very outdated and
probably a neck and mysticnow anachronistic, are the part of egyptian state television. the key is bringing forth young talent to take risks from a production standpoint, to do things differently. i have started to see that on state radio, for instance. a lot of young people are putting together interesting shows, the kind of stuff that would compete with let's say radio xm programming in the u.s. i think that can be translated into television. unfortunately, because of the
fact that state media are typically not a meritocracy and there is a fair amount of nepotism there, it depends on who you know and their connections, there are those who have been in the same positions for a long time and have become an intractable part of the institution. there is very little room for upward mobility for those who are part of the creative generation or those who have innovative ideas. there needs to be a vision for change at the very top of state media. i think there is something salvageable from a cultural standpoint. keep in mind that, you know, the last six months of the morsi presidency, there was an outright attack against egypt's cultural industries. and that created a significant backlash, more so than any of us expected. we thought, nobody was going to pay attention to culture. in reality, it was a very serious part of what led to the june 30 protest. so i think the state media can provide a platform in that
respect. and i would argue that it least 70% of all state programming, outside of newspapers, is actually primarily entertainment. so there is more to that than just news. so they can fail and falter as far as news is concerned, but if they can improve the performance and the produce as far as cultural and entertainment programming, then something beneficial might come through. of course, the revolutionary ferment that came about in the last couple of years was brought to the fore -- young artists, young people doing intriguing stuff -- they are both vying for and thirsty for an opportunity to be given a platform. given both the budget and the reach of state media, it would be an advantageous venue for them. >> do you think it is possible to have the state media maintain freedom? >> yes, there are a lot of models that we can see around the world.
many that are in free countries, that some of them employ several factors. one of them is reducing subsidies to the minimum. that is something that is manageable in the egyptian case. we don't need that much, that many people to work in tv, the tv building. we do not need that the building. if you look at it, it makes you feel small. i think that is like the vision that was created back in the 1950's to give this image of a strong country, but this is exactly why we do not need that building. there is an a tent on-- attempt on doing privatization model scenarios.
and current government. we are told by people within the interim government that -- the current minister was appointed exactly to manage the transition. it was one of the arguments that was given when the military returned the cabinet position for the first time. they said this is someone that will oversee the transition toward a new a model of ownership. and we don't know if that is going to happen or not, but at least we were told that the new constitutional amendment will create a national entity that is going to be run by an independent board, not hired by or appointed by the government, but you left it from within. -- elected from within. and they will mandate that this body create mechanisms to make sure the media is competitive and that they are able to cover a certain percent of the investment --
there is an attempt to do that to see if this will go well in the upcoming few months and also if it will make its way to the new constitutional amendments. >> thank you. >> given the cacophony of polarization, how much of a subset is there of journalists who recognize they are setting up a system of oppression for themselves down the road? to answer your question, i think the word to describe self- censorships is [inaudible] >> excellent. the age-old expression. i mean, again, as a non-
journalist, and someone who has not practiced the profession, i cannot really get into the heads of journalists today in egypt and how they are processing this. i think what is happened is, it's a game of political brinkmanship that is happened in such a way that each side believes if they do not take a strong stance against the oppositional camp that their opportunity to be free as journalists will effectively dissipate. there is a counter logic. they are not afraid of the larger hegemon that will punish their adversaries today and come back later. rather, they are concerned about the hegemon of yesterday coming
back to haunt them later. now the amount of animosity against the muslim brotherhood and the fear within a substantial constituency within the journalistic profession, far outweighs -- again, i cannot comprehend the logic, but it far outweighs the fear of the military enterprise, despite 60 years of history that the military has had, not a glowing one in relation to journalism. they are basically walking down that path. there are a few that are expressing this kind of concerned but they are a slim minority. on the other side, of course, it is a tremendous risk to criticize the journalistic camp which is quite miniscule and has no platform to rely on very more. to criticize the military. they, too, are hoping to empower their own camp in the possibility or the hope that
once there is another ascendancy for the muslim brotherhood or another islamist government, that what mohammed morsi did not do to silence his opposition, he will do in the future. he did not strike hard enough. unfortunately it is a catch-22 on both ends. i'm not seeing the loud voices within the journalistic establishment, of whom there were 15 to 20 notable celebrities who egyptians had come to respect. today, you would be hard-pressed to find a single individual that you would trust and rely on their integrity through and through across these various eras. so, unfortunately, the encampment is too deep for them
to see what this does to the profession and the likelihood of their progress and seeing through a free press a year or two years down the line. >> nothing to add. >> seems depressing. >> [inaudible] i wonder if you might speak to the state of -- the international media. there has been a public scandal of al jazeera. what is going on now? who is listening to it? is it deemed legitimate by either of the sides? in terms of positive pressure points on egyptians, and i do not just mean the military or the government, in terms of the public, are there international voices, whether u.n., regional
and country specific that are seen as legitimate in the eyes of the egyptian people who could potentially positively influence not just the media environment, but the broader school of law, the new constitution, any of those areas that you see to have some positive -- >> that is a lot of really difficult questions. let me just say that i think al jazeera has -- now, again, we have to be able to distinguish al jazeera, the arabic language television network here to egypt that was launched after the fall of mubarak, largely because al jazeera is an organization realized they would lose a significant market share of egypt once a burgeoning media environment where to grow and knowing the full well that
egyptians have a preference for egyptian programming. we need a channel that has primarily egyptians on its air. and 100%, 24 hours just egypt. it was a smart idea to launch this network, especially at a time when al jazeera was at a high point in egypt. but unfortunately because of their overt support for the muslim -- i'm not saying there is no caveat here. i have been watching it for the last 24 hours straight without any sleep. if you can tell. it is a direct feed from ramallah -- every speaker, every personality, everybody on stage has a direct feed into al jazeera. so, by and large, given what has been happening in egypt over the last year and a half, al jazeera's market share inside egypt has dropped so
dramatically and has lost what ever trust in egyptians had in it, that i think it is practically un salvageable. the hope for al jazeera and that those who believe in the muslim brotherhood or those who are oppositional to the coup or the military role now will effectively shift back and say, al jazeera ended up being the most trusted news. but that is not going to happen. and it also hurts by default you much all other transnational news organizations, broadcasting into egypt today. and a few that are able to salvage their reputation are the ones that steer clear of the back and forth by not inviting the pundits or the polemicists or the spokesperson for the different groups, which is a very difficult thing to do when
you have two sides when you have that one analyst is trying to figure out how to decipher this. the one that would able to gain a few points would be france 24, and a few other smaller stations. egyptians are completely engrossed in egyptian programming. if there is not in egyptian, they are probably not going to listen. i would extend that that there is a psychic sovereignty to the political realm as well. there is animosity and hostility towards any kind of intervention politically in terms of reconciliation. anybody to talk across camps are between camps. there is a strong reactionary reaction to this. we are egypt. we do not want any meddling. we do not want the saudis and the u.s. to tell us what to do.
that is the kind of atmosphere that exists in egypt from the standpoint of the political atmosphere and among the audiences as well. >> i am going to say the same thing. i will comment on media content. we think it is not our role to judge content, but as much as we can whoever is involving in collecting and disbursing information for the national interest that interest the public, we would defend -- we do not think that justifies any dislike or oppression by any government. i would like to add to the point about the credibility of international actors within it
is natural in those situations where there is a divide. you can see that in every aspect of public life. they believe that some of those actors that aligned themselves with both parties of egypt, and that there is no point on talking about that in a sense of taking sides. i think the advice that we try to share across the board is that just focus on principles. and one of the things that we think is people understand and appreciate is -- this is not political in nature.freedom to
information. that says censorship is a violation of your right to information -- but preventing her from information that you may like or dislike is a violation. we will try to message are content --that this is something that is their right. and it does not matter if some egyptians like it and others don't. this is information in a very critical time. that people need to know in order to have informed judgment. thank you. >> we have time for one more question. >> u.s. and -- embassy political affairs.
we have seen the media play an essential role during the revolution. and it will continue to be very important. you only take government -- will society play a role? how effective, how did it contribute? i think he contributed a lot to the june 30 protest. will we see some change to correct this half of the media? >> of course, any regulatory process that comes from the government one needs to look at with some degree of scrutiny to ensure that it does not serve to
restrict more than actually be permissible. in addition to that, i think there is a national --natural media monitoring that is going on where news organizations are being criticized publicly for their poor performance depending on circumstance. because the public itself is deeply polarized, they are judging of based on the kind of criteria you would expect journalism to be vvalued on -- valued on. you cannot trust that society will be the natural days to fix the problem. more importantly, it may have to be the professionals themselves. there's a huge role to be played for the journalists syndicate, for instance, and any other collaborative organization. there is one organization called
the national coalition for media freedom. they released a declaration shortly after the toppling of mubarak. it fizzled away or became -- th initiatives. those initiatives if taken seriously could really move forward in such a way that allows journalists to place professionalism back on the agenda. it is more important to tell the story as it is as opposed to doing it in a manner that is self-serving or serving to your political camp or serving to the interest of your news organization. there was a time when egyptian journalists were courageous enough to do so. remember, six or nine months ago, where journalists put their careers on the line and raced -- risked -- and their lives. lives is unfortunately the default these days and egypt. but they run the risk of losing their jobs. today i feel it is not their
jobs that is on the line but some sort of accidental -- existential, something they're trying to defend that is more complicated than that. i would say initiatives from civil society, from various organizations and coalitions, syndicates, collectives, reporters groups. it has to come from within the profession itself, a recognition itself that aims are faltering, things are spiraling out of control. -- that things are faltering. they keep feeding the beast and the beast keeps getting angrier. so unfortunately, i always leave things on a negative note. i'm sorry. >> this is something we mentioned in the report that a lot of people who have been persecuted by the morsi government were not why in showing some happiness when they saw those channels being shut down. they vocally supported censorship against these forces.
we tried as much is possible to talk to them about it. i think by the time they realize that this is not temporary, and it is not just for a few days, and that has been in several weeks and it is still going on. so a lot of them have switched sides. on.-- who has been a target by those tv stations has said that they are instituting a new form of mccarthyism in egyptian politics. and he started to speak out against censorship. we are seeing that trend being reversed, and we are hoping that it will culminate into a bigger pressure against the military government to stop censorship. >> ok. thank you to our speakers. thank you to everyone.
we're going to wrap up as i have been informed sharif has a media engagement. so, thank you all for coming. however, i think maybe you need a few minutes to -- follow you out. thank you for coming. the report is over there. please do take one on the way out. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2013] >> in just a moment, "newsmakers." a town hall in. later, q&a. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2013] [captioning performed by national captioning institute] >> welcome to "newsmakers." our guest is michael needham, the ceo of heritage action for america.